Monday, 25 July 2011

Saniya from Suriname's Dal Recipe.

We live a few doors down from Saniya and her three children and husband, who began brightening our bellies with gifts of food when we were having our building work done last year. She'd bring meals for the builders, usually containing meat, so we couldn't partake. She asked why, we told her it was because of the things we couldn't eat, and a look of concern crossed her face. But eventually the builders left, and so did she - for a while.

We'd always said hello and had little chats at the door, then one night she brought round three hot little foil-wrapped packages of deliciousness. I returned the dishes, and the next day she asked for some emergency onions - I had only three, but was happy to let her have them, since whatever she made was bound to be better than the future I'd got planned for them. I got to find out for sure, because she brought round a dish full of it - hot fresh dal, with bread and pickle, again in hot foil packages.

This was repaid in cakes, and thus began an interchange in which the latest transaction was this gift of a recipe for her special dal. It's not hot, or particularly spicy - she's sniffy about the way Pakistanis 'over-complicate' their dal recipes! - but is deliciously smooth and creamy, and just melts in the mouth. She showed me this first hand and I wrote it down, so it's from the cook's hand, direct.

I doubt very much this will be the last recipe we post from Saniya!

It's here as a PDF if you'd like to print it off and cover it in oily pawprints in your own kitchen.

Read about Suriname and read about dal in general.

Take 3 mugfuls of Mung Dal (yellow).

Wash THOROUGHLY in running water, till water runs clear
(important, gets rid of dust and starch).

Put in a large pan with a lid, and add 3 x mugfuls of water to each mug of Mung Dal.

Make a separate mix of the following spices, one teaspoon of each:
- Fenugreek
- Cumin
- Nigella seeds
- Coriander

Then add to the water:
- 1 x teaspoon turmeric (turns it good and yellow)
- 1.5 teaspoons of the above spice mixture
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
- Half an onion, sliced (you'll need the other half later)

Bring the water to the boil.

As it’s simmering, carefully scrape off with a big spoon all the bubbly starch that forms on top. This is really important, as 'This is the bit that contains the flatulence', as Saniya put it, 'and the starch, which is mainly sugar, which make you...' (at this point she pats her stomach!) Get rid of it all and you get a much smoother, milkier mix.

When the dal is cooked - you'll know as all the dal will be really soft or 'melted', as Saniya calls it. Keep tasting and checking and stirring.

Cooking it in her pressure cooker took about 30 minutes, but I reckon it needs to cook on a normal stove-top for about an hour.

In the meantime, chop the remaining half of the onion and another two garlic cloves.
Put them in a small saucepan with sunflower or veg oil - nice and deep, so the onions is nearly covered.
Cook the onions in the oil till gently browned and soft - add the garlic right at the end, just so it cooks transparent and doesn't burn.

As soon as it's cooked, turn off the heat and tip the whole lot including the oil into the Dal.
Stir, and it's ready to serve! Serve with freshly cooked rice or bread of any sort.

Freezes and keeps in the fridge - but as always best fresh!

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